The 2021 Instagram Updates You Need to Know About

The 2021 Instagram Updates You Need to Know About

Marketers know how important Instagram is. The platform has a billion active monthly users and the top 50 brands on Instagram now have a larger audience size and nearly 21x more engagement than on Facebook.

But to take full advantage of everything the platform has to offer, it’s important to stay on top of the latest developments. Luckily, we’ve done that for you, with this updated list of the most important updates and changes that marketers need to know.

Previous Updates

Instagram Is Developing a TikTok-Style Feed for Stories

It’s no surprise that Instagram developers are creating a vertical-style feed for Stories. Instagram has confirmed that they’re testing this new functionally within Instagram Stories. 

Now, why Stories? Instagram Stories can consist of post shares, images, videos, IGTV, and Reels, including ad placements in between every other story. Currently, you can simply tap or swipe through your followers’ stories horizontally and it will auto-play until you swipe down to exit. 

However, it’s more than just the functionality. It’s about content creation and engagement. 

Stories is a more casual and personable form of Reels. But keep in mind that the difference with TikTok is that it’s purely 2-60 sec videos of endless scrolling. Other users can Stitch or Duet videos (if enabled by the creator), encouraging more users to interact with the video content and engage with other TikTokers. 

This may be a simple change in Instagram’s feed functionality, but will Instagram follow the same content creation path as TikTok? 

Multi-Participant Live Streams

Instagram is planning to launch multi-participants IG live video chats. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Instagram has seen a huge increase in live-streaming as more people used this feature to stay connected during lockdowns. 

Originally, live streams were only one speaker and the audience. With multi-participants live streaming, which originally tested well in India in 2020, it’s the same structure, but there can be up to four hosts of a live stream.

For brands, a good influencer marketing strategy to collaborate with other influencers in the same industry and host a live stream. Here’s an example of Lilly Singh, Adam Mosseri, and Nabela Noor in a multi-participant live stream.

Recently Deleted Folder

Accidently deleted a post? Don’t worry, Instagram launched a new feature folder, called Recently Deleted, to help creators access previous deleted content. 

Anytime you delete a post, it will be removed from your posts and transferred over to the Recently Deleted folder. In this folder, you can review deleted and restore delete content in the Instagram account. 

Here are the steps to access your Recently Deleted folder: 

  1. Go to your profile and click on the hamburger icon on the top right corner. 
  2. Go to Settings > Account > Recently Deleted Folder.

Instagram Will Remove Accounts That Send Abusive DMs

Instagram has taken new measures against abusive direct messages (DMs) and hate speech on the platform. However, this is easier said than done since DMs are a place for private conversations, which is more difficult for Instagram to address than comments. 

Here are some measures Instagram has implemented: 

  • Stricter penalties for people who send abusive DMs. This will prohibit violators for a set period of time. If the person continues, then Instagram will disable the account. 
  • Updated rules to strengthen the company’s stance against hate speech. This includes banning more specific forms of hate speech, such as blackface and antisemitism.   
  • Working with UK law enforcement. Instagram highlighted some specific abuse issues in the UK, and has said it’s in full cooperation with UK law enforcement, though they’ll “push back if (requests are) too broad, inconsistent with human rights, or not legally valid.”

To control your experience on the platform, Instagram has created more tools, such as:

  • Comment filters – Prevent others from leaving offensive comments, words, or phrases. 
  • Bulk deletes and blocking – Users can delete comments in bulk and block multiple accounts at once. 
  • Switch off DMs – Users can turn off DMs from people they don’t follow.
  • Switch off tags and mentions – Users can block tags and mentions from people. 

Instagram vs. Facebook: Differences and Best Practices

New Professional Dashboard to Help Content Creators

Instagram created a new professional dashboard to encourage more content creation. Recreating a new dashboard will help content creators and small business owners build new content strategies and make better decisions for their brand. 

The new dashboard is available for all Business and Creator accounts on Instagram. New features include:

  • Track Your Performance – See fresh new insights and trends based on your performance.
  • Grow Your Business – Discover efficient tools to help build your business.
  • Stay Informed – Get educational resources that include tips, guides, and inspiration. 

Instagram Updates 2020

Users can chat across Instagram and Facebook Messenger  

Instagram and Facebook chats are now more integrated than ever. The app changes released in September now let users share videos, photos, and text from one app to the other, a move that’s been awaited by both platform users.

It’s clear Facebook is on a mission to unify their apps. Last year, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook plans to unify the messaging across its family. Some time in the future, we can expect this to be rolled out to WhatsApp as well.

Instagram Guides

Instagram Guides flew a bit under the radar in comparison to some of Instagram’s other updates, but it’s now available for all users. Any user is able to go on their profile page and create their first Instagram Guide.

Initially, this feature launched in May to help bring awareness to health and wellness during the course of the pandemic. Only a select number of content creators had special access.

The purpose of the format was to give creators the ability to post long-form content (and even text-based content) on the platform. Other formats include photos, galleries, and videos, which can be sourced from an individual’s profile or that of another creator. 

Some of the biggest brands have already created their first Guides this season. Check out the best Instagram Guides from brands and get inspired!

Instagram Stories get new fonts 

We had been waiting for this one for a while and it’s finally here! 

Instagram added four Stories fonts to the mix – and we are in love with every single one of them! To access these new gems head over to the Story editor. There you will be able to unlock the new fonts and also see some old classics that had a facelift.  

You now have a total of nine Instagram fonts to choose from – so make it count!

Instagram Shops keep purchases on the platform

By increasing the integration of shopping within the platform, Instagram Shopping is taking the ecommerce experience to a new level.

The feature, which first debuted in a limited release in May and has been slowly rolling out in waves, allows business accounts to create a more robust shopping experience that’s also more user-friendly. The new shops tab will replace the activity tab at the bottom of the screen, and users can get into the shop through regular feed posts, carousels, stories, or the discover page.

The ability to look at a post that has a featured product, click for more information (which may include multiple views, color options, and prices), and then complete the purchase all within the app is expected to make a huge impact in the ecommerce industry, which has already seen robust sales due in part to the global pandemic keeping people at home.

Instagram Reels launches globally 

Instagram’s rival to TikTok is expanding at an opportune time.

The short-form video feature, which launched in Brazil in late 2019, began operating in India shortly after the country banned TikTok and other apps over privacy concerns. Not too long after that, Instagram announced that Reels would roll out to 50 more countries, including the US, which has been considering its own ban on TikTok.

The feature, which is available within the Instagram app, has now officially gone global. Like TikTok, Instagram Reels allows users to create 15-second video clips set to music or audio from other Reels videos.

Users can share Reels in Stories, through direct messages, or by sharing them to the discover page, where they could go viral. Users can also keep a collection of Reels at the top of their profile, similar to how Stories can be kept in collections that don’t expire after 24 hours.

New story tools

The coronavirus pandemic created a lot of new user habits and needs, and in response Instagram unveiled several new features.

One thing that many people wanted to do was help raise money or support businesses in need. Two features helped address that: live donations and stickers to promote businesses.

Instagram Live usage increased during the pandemic, and since many of the streams were meant to help raise awareness or funds for certain causes, it made sense to have the ability to donate right while watching the video.

Instagram added the live donations option in April, which gave accounts the ability to designate programs that they wanted to fundraise for. Users could click then click to view the nonprofit organization and donate, and Instagram also added an I Donated sticker to post in Stories.

Speaking of stickers, many people wanted to support local small businesses during lockdown, and the Share Professional or Support Small Business sticker became an easy way to do that. The sticker prompts users to type the Instagram account name of a business, and then it automatically fills in the account’s last three feed posts, offering a quick and enticing way to send viewers straight to the business’ account.

See who you’re interacting with, or not

Wondering which accounts to cull from your feed? Instagram unveiled some easy-to-view insights, which could be bad news for brands.

By going to your profile and clicking following, a categories feature at the top shows the 50 accounts that you interact with the least and the 50 that are shown the most in your feed.

The accounts that you interact with least are basically a recommendation of accounts that you could unfollow – which could be annoying for marketers as it’s an easy way for users to see which accounts they could drop. And the other category also lets users decide if they want to make any changes to the 50 accounts that they see the most based on the algorithm.

Overall, this is a positive control feature for users that could have some downsides for the marketers trying to reach them.

IGTV Ads provide revenue to creators

Influencers and creators on Instagram now have another way to make money through the platform: IGTV ads.

After initially testing the idea in February, Instagram expanded the feature in May and will continue testing throughout the year. The revenue sharing – 55% for creators – is currently available just for individual video creators, not large media companies.

Larger companies will eventually also get revenue sharing, but that’s not expected to be implemented until 2021.

Instagram has tested several different versions of the ads – skippable, different lengths, etc. – but the primary version is that a 15-second ad pulls up when a user clicks Watch IGTV video from the main feed post.

In addition to the ads, Instagram also made it possible to share Instagram Live broadcasts to IGTV, so that they can be found there instead of disappearing after 24 hours.

📌 Pin top comments

The comments section under a feed post isn’t always a positive place, but users can help steer the sentiment in the direction they want with pinned comments.

Users can pin up to three comments at the top of their feed, so that they can choose the first comments that are visible to others when they see the post. Instagram started testing the feature in May and rolled it out to all users in July.

New advertisers don’t need Facebook account

In a shift that was likely related directly to a Facebook ad boycott, in June Instagram announced that new advertisers didn’t need to link to a Facebook ad account or Facebook page as was previously required.

The feature, which is available only to new advertisers in the US and Turkey, was likely related to the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, which called on brands to stop advertising on Facebook for the month of July. By not requiring that ads on both platforms be linked and managed through a centralized platform, it’s possible some brands would move forward with advertising just on Instagram while not doing so on Facebook, at least for a while.

However, the full effects of the ad boycott remain to be seen, as some brands, like Unilever, pledged to pause advertising in the US on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter through 2020.

Instagram Updates 2019

Instagram Checkouts

Last March, Instagram made a strong start to the year when they introduced checkouts on Instagram. The platform makes it easier than ever to buy an item through the app, which is one small step for the platform and one giant step for ecommerce brands who are looking for more direct and provable ties between their instagram marketing and business results. 

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The buying process is far smoother now. When a user taps on a product they’re interested in, a “Checkout on Instagram” button appears, allowing the user to purchase the product without ever leaving the app. And the best part? Once a user fills out the information it’s saved for future use.

Out of all of the updates Instagram released this year this one was right amongst our favorites.

Prove the ROI From Your Ecommerce Campaigns With Real Transparency

Donation stickers

It’s no secret that Stories have exploded on Instagram, with over 500 million daily active users. To help make Stories an interactive product space, the platform launched donation stickers where users could raise money for non-profit groups on Instagram. 100% of all profits received are given to the charities, and it’s a great way for brands to raise awareness around issues and communities that matter to them.

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Shopping direct from creators

Influencer marketing hit a peak in 2019. We saw #Ad usage increase by 33% compared to in Q2, 2018. It’s a giant leap, and it doesn’t even take into account the influencers who are required to, but sometimes don’t, include #Ad on sponsored posts. See the graph below which has been excerpted from Socialbakers Q2 2019 Trends Report.

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Due to the rise in influencer marketing, Instagram made it easier than ever for users to shop for items sported by content creators. Rather than screenshotting or googling for specific articles of clothing or accessories, users have the option of tapping on an item an influencer’s showcasing and see specifications in greater detail. 

Users can even buy it on the spot. This was a revolutionary update that could further help marketers more easily and precisely prove ROI from influencer collaborations. It also proves the ongoing power of influencer marketing which looks set to ride the changes and continue to be part of the ongoing conversation, so it’s important that you stay on top of influencer marketing trends or risk blowing budget on outdated practices.

@Shop launches

The Instagram team created @shop, an Instagram page dedicated to small businesses and creators. The page features unique content and inspirational stories from business owners. It’s a great place to learn best practices from cool companies who are doing it up right. Your business may even end up becoming one of them. 

It’s really about giving brands and Ecommerce businesses a way to shorten the customer journey from product research to shopping cart. The easier it is for the customer, the more likely they are to purchase – especially if they can manage the whole process through one app, without the need to flick between screens. 

It’s great for marketers too, as they can put aside referral traffic data and manage the customer journey from start to finish right on Instagram. It’s far easier to hit all the touch points on the way down the funnel, leading prospects through the awareness, consideration and decision phases until they’re ready to buy.

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Explore tab revamp

One of the best updates we saw from Instagram this year was their revamp of the Explore tab. Instagram made it easier than ever before to discover new content by expanding their navigation bar options, adding tabs like: IGTV, Shop, Food, Art, and Travel.

This is a huge win for brands as they have a better chance of capturing focused audience attention from the competitive feed. In addition, due to huge growth in Instagram advertising, Instagram have announced that marketers will be able to run ads in the Explore tab too, another way to reach people outside of their feeds, and it offers new potential at the top of the funnel.

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Users also have the ability to narrow down their search when it comes to clicking on a category such as Shop. For example, they can specifically filter posts dedicated to the topic of beauty if that’s what they’re in the market for. 

But the coolest update for the explore tab, is probably the redesign of the grid to feature Stories. It’s a great way for brands to get more visibility from their Stories which can help them build a really organic and engaged audience.

Create Marketing Personas for Your Exact Audience in Seconds

IGTV supports landscape videos

IGTV is a valuable format and but all updates have to be complete revamps to be significant. Sometimes it’s the smallest update which can make the biggest impact. And IGTV’s launch of landscape video on IGTV is an example of that. 

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IGTV made some changes to make it easier for content creators to create, and ideate. Now that creators can publish IGTV video previews to the News Feed in tandem with landscape video options, creators have a better chance of increasing video views. The update also puts the desires of the user front and center, as they are able to consume various types of content in the way that they want.

Schedule and Publish Videos to Instagram, Alongside All Your Other Multi-Channel Content

Instagram threads

Instagram recently launched a new “camera-first” messaging app to help users better connect with their closest friends and family.

Threads is a standalone app that enables users to share photos, videos, messages, Stories and other content to a specific group of people. The app lets users control who sees their content, helping them create a more personalized communication experience for their closest circle of friends and family.

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Create Mode Updates

On This Day

#ThrowBackThursday became more than just a hashtag with Instagram’s update to Create Mode. Users can now see an “On This Day” feature where they can view past feed posts they posted on that same calendar day.

It’s a great way to encourage users to share content via Stories, outside of their daily updates. 

Quiz Stickers

Makes it easier than ever before to ask your audience questions. Great for quick interactive content and sparking conversations.

Polls

Enjoy quick polls to gauge your audience’s interests and taste. You can choose from pre selected polls “Sweet or savory” or “Better first date: dinner or a movie?”

Questions

Ask your audience quick questions! Again, you’ll already have a list of selected questions to choose from or you can create your own.

GIFs

It’s the ultimate cherry on top when it comes to content creation. While GIFs you could always search through Stories for GIFs, GIFs in create mode can be laid as a background rather than just being laid on top.

Instagram tests hiding likes

This year Instagram began to test the hiding Likes option, and audiences are still on the fence about it. The test initially began its test in Canada before expanding to six other countries.

Likes won’t be hidden completely,  and the poster still has access to his/her Likes. The difference is that the Like count won’t be visible to others and will remain private. The various types of reactions, along with some friend’s names, and number of comments will remain visible.

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Facebook’s main initiative is to help facilitate a safe environment for sharing and mental well-being. With that being said, the platform wants people to focus on the quality of what they share rather than posting to fish for Likes.

While it can be a huge change for marketers, we think adapting the platform to better fit the audiences’ needs is the right move.

Instagram plans to remove following tab

Instagram has announced that they will be removing the Following tab (also known as the stalker tab). The platform believes that there is no use for this tool, especially since many users don’t even know it exists. Instead, Instagram believes that with all of the options available in the Explore tab, people can discover new people to follow there, rather than on other people’s pages.

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Instagram launches @creators

Instagram launched a channel @creators, specifically tailored to providing content creators with tips and tricks. Here you can see inspiration from other savvy Instagrammers along with insightful statistics and data. It’s always useful to have some inspiration when ideating content, as it’s all to easy to burn out trying to feed the content machine day after day.

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Instagram gives users more control over data shared with third-party apps

This is an update that will cross over into 2020 territory – and therefore it’s still big news. The goal of the recently announced update is to give users more control over the data that they share with third-party apps over the year. According to TechCrunch, the ability to restrict third-party apps from receiving data is pretty common place now with platforms like Google, Twitter and Facebook already offering these services.

According to Instagram you’ll now be able to “have the option to remove any third-party services you no longer want connected to your Instagram account. When you remove a third-party service, they will no longer have access to new data on your account.” The update will begin to roll out slowly and should be completed within the next 6 months. 

Content Marketing Specialist

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